Having taken charge of Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty in March 2019, General Manager Shrikant Wakharkar has a combined experience of 30 years in the areas of managing, mentoring, coaching and motivating in the hospitality industry. In his previous roles, Shrikant has held leadership positions in the food and beverage department in Hyatt Regency Delhi, Taj Mahal Palace and Towers Mumbai and Taj President Mumbai. He actively contributed to the renovation projects of rooms, coffee shop and bars at the Taj Samudra Hotel, Colombo. He was instrumental in launching Inter Continental Goa Resort as a premium venue for weddings and MICE events. Before moving to Kochi, Shrikant was the Cluster General Manager of Marriott and Courtyard hotels in Hyderabad. He loves travelling and exploring and is passionate about fitness as it helps him unwind and stay focused. He runs 3-4 marathons a year, the major ones being the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon, TCS Amsterdam Marathon and the Soles of Cochin Half Marathon.
What makes Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty stand out from other properties you’ve worked in?
With the spectacular views of the Vembanad Lake, Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty is a worthy backdrop to the ultimate Kerala dream vacation. When it comes to guest preferences and personalized care, we not only meet but exceed their expectations in unique ways. In the last three years, the hotel facilitated more than 250 MICE events including the largest ever event of it’s kind in the state – APICON – that had over 10,000 delegates a day across three days. Grand Hyatt Kochi has been a business aggregator for the city and the region, bringing in large conferences and residential weddings. By virtue of this, Kochi now rubs shoulders with formidable event destinations such as Goa, Udaipur and Jaipur.
Who is your typical customer?
This urban resort with large and small flexible venues is a preferred choice for leisure guests as well as business travelers. Kochi is an important maritime city. There are several defence and non defence projects for which guests travel to Kochi and stay with us. Additionally it is also an emerging IT and ITES hub. The hotel itself is a destination for larger format residential MICE events. We have hosted prestigious conferences, summits and residential weddings. We are also witnessing traction on the leisure front. The experiences on offer at the hotel have attracted leisure travelers like never before. All in all suffice to say that we have a well rounded guest profile and the hotel is equipped to cater to the needs of a diverse profile of travelers.
If you could plan a one-day itinerary for guests looking to explore Kochi, where would you send them?
For holidaymakers keen to soak in some culture and adventure, the hotel’s curated locally-inspired experiences are reasons to celebrate moments of more. The itinerary could include village and island experiences, toddy tapping, kayaking and fishing, trekking and beach hopping, cultural tours in Fort Kochi, cycling and tuk-tuk tours in Mattancherry among others. Embark on a full-day cruise on our leisure houseboat and waft on the serene backwaters. Full day expeditions to nearby spots like the Thattekad bird sanctuary and Athirapally waterfalls also make for a memorable visit.
Building the right team is crucial for a property’s success. What are the key skills you look for when hiring new employees?
In the current ecosystem, an organization’s brand and customer loyalty rest in the hands of it’s employees more than ever. Hyatt’s purpose of care takes centre stage when it comes to our hiring process. We look for a positive attitude, technical expertise, being a team player and social skills depending on the position in a potential employee.
What is the USP of your hotel?
Offering lake views, the 4 villas with private access and plunge pools, are uniquely popular with our patrons. When it comes to dining, Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty is all about bringing authentic flavours to the table. Malabar Café serves Kerala fare with homely flavours while Thai Soul has an exciting menu inspired by Bangkok street food. Enjoy the cool evening breeze at the Colony Clubhouse & Grill, a re-imagined old world grill room and rooftop bar that offers an unrivalled view of the lake and the city as you sip on a spice-infused cocktail. Santata Spa offers signature therapies that takes inspiration from western and age-old Ayurvedic treatments.
The 1,00,000 sq.ft Lulu Bolgatty International Convention Centre, offers multiple indoor and outdoor meetings spaces. Guests can waft through the backwaters on Nattika, the luxury two-bedroom houseboat or host an experiential event on the 80-capacity Grand Houseboat.
What is the one dish that guests have to try when at your hotel?
A must-have dish is ‘Meen Pollichathu’ at Malabar Café. This is a Kerala specialty of fish marinated with native spices and steamed in banana leaves.
2020 was a challenging year for the hospitality industry. In your opinion, how will travel trends change in the second half of 2021?
With government regulations, health awareness and the effects of a global pandemic, the way business operates has drastically changed. However, with this comes an exciting opportunity to adapt and innovate. The shift from grand, larger than life events to small, intimate get-togethers and personalized mindful weddings has given us the opportunity to plan re-imagined experiences for our guests. ‘Travel with Purpose’, a Hyatt global initiative, will make destination experiences more meaningful, involved and rewarding. We have recognized the prospects of our dining components to go digital, and have taken measures to make sure they are all available to our guests at a click. Staycations and intra state travel will continue to drive leisure guests to major cities, along with safely planned city experiences.
Was a career in hospitality something you always dreamt of? What is your advice to aspiring hoteliers?
I originally dreamt of working in the Navy. However, since I couldn’t clear the entrance examination, I chose hotel management as the next career option. My advice to aspiring hoteliers would be that this is a very exciting and challenging industry to work in. Of course, these are slightly troubled times. But I foresee a very bright future for this industry in the country. All that is required to be a successful hotelier is to have a positive attitude and ability to work long as well as odd hours.
You have worked in several cities, which is your favourite city for work and play?
Out of all the cities that I have worked in, I really enjoyed the city of Hyderabad the most. Although I originally hail from Mumbai, I find Hyderabad a very cosmopolitan, an easy-going with great infrastructure, good public transport and good weather for most part of the year and a well-governed city.
When are you happiest?
I am happiest when my team receives glowing compliments for the efforts they put in to ensure that our guests have a memorable experience at the hotel.